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Archive for October, 2013

Did you buy your Halloween treats yet? Did you have to go buy them again, because you them all the first time?

I didn’t buy any! This year I have volunteered to help out at a family fun night, rather than my usual tradition of walking my kids around the neighborhood, or handing out goodies at my door. But, my heart will be divided, as trick-or-treating is such a great opportunity to connect with those closest in your community.

Today I am re-posting my Halloween post from last year. Have a good and safe day and night, whatever you may choose to do.

Halloween is, at the very least, an odd celebration.

Children dress up (that is not odd),

go to the homes of strangers (children are generally taught to not speak to strangers),

and say trick-or-treat (threatening their neighbors)

as a means of getting free candy (back to the ‘stranger danger’ point from earlier),

then the taking candy from strangers (something we do not want little children to do).

I am very aware of the pagan, and even satanic background to this celebration, in the past as well as today. I am also aware that the day (and night) can become a night of mischief and illegal activities. In one of the homes we once lived, I would pray for rain, so as to hinder the throwing of firecrackers over houses.

But, my own childhood memories of Halloween center around my grandmother, who I remember spending that night with many times as a kid.

She was a woman who was active in her neighborhood, her church and her family, and she saw Halloween night as an opportunity to see how much the children in the neighborhood had grown since the Halloween before. No trick-or-treat-er was given a smidgen of candy until they had revealed their name, and where they lived. And if they were not from her neighborhood, they got less candy! Plus, once she shut the door, she would grumble about the “nerve of those outsiders, coming to take all our candy from the mouths of the local children.” Ah Gram, and she had an opinion about older trick-or-treat-ers too.

My Gram made the night a fun one for me. I would help her pack the little paper bags full of candy, and get together her penny collection for the kids who would come to the door with the orange UNICEF boxes.

While I was doing this, Gram would be rifling through her costumes, to choose a mask to wear, as she greeted kids at the door. It didn’t matter what mask she wore, it would be accompanied by the same whiny, high pitched fake voice. My personal favorite mask was one of Casper the Ghost. It was similar to the one to the left, distinct enough to know who it was, but friendly looking.

And that is what Halloween was, for me, as a child. People carved pumpkins to look like … jack-o-lanterns, rang the doorbells of the neighbors they knew so well, shared a few sweet candies, and acted silly. All was done in a friendly, jovial manner.

As I see the houses decorated today with lights, sound and tombstones, see the costumes that are more ghostly than friendly, and hear of the illegal and immoral acts of the ‘season’ I miss what I experienced as a child, but am thankful for a neighborhood where the night is still jovial, and many of the trick-or-treat-ers have rung my doorbell before, asking if a certain someone in our home could come out to play.

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Have I ever mentioned that I love my job?

I get to work when my kids are in school. I get a great summer break (with no pay, I might add). I get to work with a fantastic staff. I get to work in a setting that is not contrary to my core beliefs. I get to work more directly with parents than most school staff. But, most of all, I get to spend my work days as a personal investigator … Carole Wheaton, PI … love it!

You see, although my job is all about IEP’s (individualized educational plans), adapting and modifying curriculum (which, of course, I am not qualified to do 😉 ), ensuring that personal safety of the students is achieved, and integration of the students into the ‘typical’ world, the best part of my job is not in my job description, was not in the SETA (special education teaching assistant) program I studied, and will never be something that is asked of me. The best part of my job is the PI part …

door800I spend almost every minute, of every work day, looking for door knobs, handles, and deadbolts. I am terrible at journaling my observations, but I never stop observing, never stop asking questions of others, never stop hunting for the way into the mind of the students I have the privilege to work with. They amaze me!

The observations come in the midst of teaching an individualized math program when the student has an aha moment and he or she gets it!

Or, in the midst of a class, when the student who normally does not appear to be paying attention faces the front when the teacher stops talking about a subject, and reads the equivalent material in story form.

Or, when a student drifts off for almost five minutes, and I take the time to await his ‘return’, and when he does he looks sheepishly at me and says, “I wasn’t here, was I?” To which I could smile and say, “no worries, I’ll wait.”

Or, when a student is having the equivalent of what a mother would call a hissy fit, or tantrum, and when time and a place to regroup are availed to him, he returns as a person wanting nothing more than reconciliation.

Or, when a student gets to spend time with like minds, like abilities, away from the stress and conformity of the school setting, and, for the first time in the time I had known him, asks a total and proper question.

I wish I had the ability to turn the knobs, the handles, the locks and throw open the doors that sometimes stand between these meaning-filled individuals and their world. I wish I could open the doors for them …

I bet that is what Jesus feels too.

Like a personal investigator (except he already knows everything, right down to the number of hairs on our heads), Jesus spends his time outside a door … but this door has no handle, no knob, no lock. The only thing that keeps it closed is our refusal to welcome Him in.

I do not know the will power it must take for Him to stand there and wait, but I think I understand the value of not forcing ourselves through the door. Part of the joy of being a PI is knowing that the student achieved their eureka moment on their own, with hard work, determination, and their will.

Jesus is not an ogre who forced himself in, He is a gentleman who will wait patiently, knowing that when we finally open the door, and invite Him in, the case is closed, the case is won … and there is no going back!

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock.
If anyone hears My voice and opens the door,
I will come in to him and dine with him,
and he with Me.”
Revelation 3:20

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From the first time I heard This is Amazing Grace by Phil Wickham, I loved it! I couldn’t wait to go home and put it on repeat on YouTube (hubby and the kids  l  o  v  e  it when I put songs on repeat (NOT!), and to check out the lyrics (rather than my typical singing along with words I ‘think’ fit).

That first day that I heard it, driving in my minivan, I was feeling rather melancholic. But as the dance music hit my ears, and the easy lyrics penetrated by heart, it was no time until I was tapping my fingers and looking like a bobble head in my driver seat.

For me, the lyrics of this song, echoing in my downcast head was a God Wink, a gift of encouragement, a halt to my naval gazing.

And that is what grace received with open hands does … it takes our eyes, our focus, off of ourselves.

According to http://www.freedictionary.com, grace is “mercy; clemency; pardon” … funny how those definitions bring prison and guilt to mind, because without grace we are doomed to life in prison … a certain hell. God gives the sentence of eternal life through grace. This is a pardon from guilt and sins, through the stepping in of a guiltless one to make our payment in full. One, without sin, taking the place of all who are sin-filled.

“This IS amazing grace
This IS unfailing love
That you would take my place
That you would bear my cross
You laid down your life
That I would be set free”

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6prk

Last week, while sitting at lunch, the conversation around the table turned to a blogging lady whose lifestyle changes have so dramatically altered how she feels and the quality of her life that she believes she will never again be able to return to her previous bad habits.

When sacrifices result in a greater good, they no longer seem like sacrifices … but there is often a period of commitment without benefit needed to get to that point.

What would you (and I) sacrifice for a greater good?

screen time? (TV, gaming, computer)
sleep?
money?
hobbies?
vacation?
free time?
chocolate?

What is a greater good that is worth sacrificing for?

a healthier body?
a longer life?
a better job/career?
a healthier/happier family?
a contribution into the life of one in need?
a better ability to sleep?
a better peace of mind?
a better future?
a hope …

I am amazed at what God will use, in the form of sacrifices He asks of us, to get us to a greater good. Often those sacrifices seem to be too much for our understanding that benefit, or good, could ever come of them.

Yet, when we look at examples of sacrifice, we also can see greater good.

– good men died in offensives against Nazi forces, but the benefit was liberation of concentration camps
– Martin Luther King Jr. was shot dead, but his dream continues to live on
– Mother Teresa gave her life to the work of Christ on behalf of the people of Calcutta
– at 15 years old, Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head, because extremists feared her advocacy for education for girls

The greatest sacrifice for greater good was given by the Creator of the universe, and the greater good is available to all :

Jew or Greek
slave or free
male or female

Through God’s sacrifice of His Son, “all one in Christ Jesus” (Galations 3:28). God knew (being all-knowing is helpful) that the sacrifice, though enormous, though personal, was for a greater good … the redemption of sin.

So, He made the sacrifice that hurt the most, even though He knew that not all would accept it. And that is what sacrifice is, it is an offer to give all, for the greater good, knowing that others might choose to ignore the reason for the sacrifice.

It is the message of Jesus himself, when he said, “greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” But Jesus did not just lay down his life for his friends, he lay down his life for all … friends and enemies, knowing that not all would accept the sacrifice.

Although, when speaking earlier this year to the United Nations, Malala Yousafzai said the following of herself, these words could also speak to the life and sacrifice of God … his child, who became teacher, the Bible, written by himself through man can (has and will) change the world.

“One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.”
Malala Yousafzai

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sheep-with-shepherd

Since hubby is a pastor, I feel a little guilty for today’s guest post … but not really 😉

October is Pastor Appreciation Month, so this is a relevant topic to share, and, although I could write my own miniseries on sleeping with the pastor (and that title would have great TV ratings), I think it is better to have one who is in the hot seat, to do the talking.

It was my hubby who shared this guest post with me … well, actually he shared it with all of his FaceBook friends, of whom I am one. It is not common for hubby to share such a (perhaps for some) self-serving article, so it must have touched him deeply.

This is what hubby said, as an introduction to the article (which I did not get his permission to re-print, but, it was he who taught me (tongue in cheek) to go with forgiveness over permission 😉 ) :

“If you have ever wondered what a pastor’s challenges in life are – I’m not sure you would – this article gives an all-too-real expose of the downside of ministry life. It’s not like this every day but the reality of challenge can be overwhelming at times. I’m not looking for sympathy, by the way ….” The Hubby

If you do not read the article, please just read these words, from A.W. Tozer :

“Will you pray for me as a minister of the gospel? I am not asking you to pray for the things people commonly pray for. Pray for me in light of the pressures of our times. Pray that I will not just come to a wearied end—an exhausted, tired, old preacher, interested only in hunting a place to roost. Pray that I will be willing to let my Christian experience and Christian standards cost me something right down to the last gasp.”

The Secret Pain of Pastors
Philip
Wagner

Philip Wagner offers insight into the six major struggles pastors face in the ministry and how to overcome them.

Peter Drucker, the late leadership guru, said that the four hardest jobs in America (and not necessarily in order, he added) are:

  • The President of the United States
  • A university president
  • A CEO of a hospital and
  • A pastor

Is that true? Pastors love God and love people. They get to pray for people, lead people to a faith in Jesus Christ, and teach the Word about God.

That’s the dream job. You can read the Bible all day, pray, play a little golf, and preach. I want to do that!

Here is the secret. Being a pastor is hard work. It’s not for wimps.

This is the reality—the job of a pastor can be 24/7 and carry unique challenges.

Some pastors wear themselves out trying to help people. Some wound their family because they are so involved in ministry. Others flourish in their ministry and personal life.

Approximately 85% of churches in America have less than 200 people. Sixty percent of churches are under 100 people. The average size congregation in the U.S. is 89 people, according to The Barna Group. Staffs are small, and needs are great. In many situations, the pastor needs to be a Bible teacher, accountant, strategist, visionary, computer tech, counselor, public speaker, worship director, prayer warrior, mentor, leadership trainer, and fundraiser.

Who can be all of that?

  • 90% of pastors said the ministry was completely different than what they
    thought it would be like before they entered the ministry.
  • 70% say they have a lower self-image now than when they first started.

Personally, I love being a pastor. I have a great staff. We have great people in our church; I am content whether going through good times or difficult seasons. Of course, it’s a lot easier to be “content” when things are good. I have great friends who are pastors. My marriage is strong. I am a better man because of my time in ministry.

Some of the unique problems that pastors’ face are:

1.  Criticism. 

Pastors can be criticized by a lot of people for a multitude of things.

“Music is too loud. Worship is not long enough. It’s too long.”

“Sermon is not deep enough. It’s too long.” 

“Pastor thinks he’s too important. It took me 3 weeks to get an appointment.”

“You talk too much about money.”

“…can I talk to you for a minute, Pastor?” This simple question can cause a pastor to think: “Oy vey.  Now what?”

We pastors need to find a way to not take criticism so personally and learn from truths that could be hidden in the criticism.

2. Rejection.

Members leave, leaders leave, and pastors’ friends leave. The reality is—people leave.

The smaller the church, the more obvious it is when people leave. Some leave for reasonable decisions; many leave ‘ungracefully.’ They leave the big churches, too—by the thousands.

People leave TD Jakes’ church, and they leave Andy Stanley’s church.

When our church had about 150 people and some would leave, it was so disappointing. I tried to console myself by thinking, “They may be leaving by the dozens here at Oasis, but thousands have left Jack Hayford’s church, and he’s a great pastor.”…That only helped for a minute.

“I’m leaving.”

“We want something deeper.”

“My needs aren’t getting met.”

These comments can feel like a personal rejection.

Every pastor has heard, “I’m not getting fed here.” Bill Hybels has heard it. Wayne Cordero, Dino Rizzo, Ed Young, Craig Groeschel, Steven Furtick, and Matthew Barnett have heard it.

Really?  Not getting fed? In those churches? How is that possible?

One of the most difficult conditions to achieve is to have a “tough skin and a soft heart.” Love people, hold them lightly, and don’t take it personally.

“…uhhh, OK.  Lord, help us.”

3.  Betrayal.

Trusting church members with personal burdens can backfire. They may end up telling the pastor’s personal issues to others. Staff leaders can take church members away. The pastor trusts a person with the platform or title, and that person uses the influence given to them to take people away.  The Judas kiss.

Church staff causing problems is a betrayal. Pastors rightfully think, “I’m paying you to solve problems. I can get new problems for free. I don’t need to pay someone a salary to create them.”

  • 40% report a conflict with a church member at least once a month.
  • 85% of pastors said their greatest problem is they are tired of dealing with problem people, such as disgruntled elders, deacons, worship leaders, worship teams, board members, and associate pastors.
  • The #1 reason pastors leave the ministry is that church people are not willing to go the same direction and goal of the pastor. Pastors believe God wants them to go in one direction, but the people are not willing to follow or change.
  • 40% of pastors say they have considered leaving their pastorates in the last three months.

We pastors have to find a way, with God’s grace, to love people as if we have never been hurt before.

4.  Loneliness.

Who’s my friend?  Who can I trust? If I tell another pastor my problems, will he criticize me, tell others, or just treat me differently?

  • 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend.

Are my friends really my friends or a church member who is a temporary friend who may leave any day now?

Healthy friendships are crucial to a fulfilling life, especially to the well being of a pastor. Put special effort in this area.

5.  Weariness.

50% of the ministers starting out will not last 5 years.

70% felt God called them to pastoral ministry before their ministry began, but after three years of ministry, only 50% still felt called.

Keeping personally refreshed is an art and a science…and extremely important.

When fatigue comes in, you not only look ½ empty, but also dirty, contaminated, and undrinkable.

6.  Frustrations & Disappointments.

Disappointments come in many ways.

Because of smaller congregations, the average compensation package for pastors is between $35,000 – $40,000. There are many things pastors in this salary range are not able to do for their family that other people around them can do.

There are many areas of ministry that judging “success” is difficult. Pastors can be hard on themselves. We work in an area that good work and good effort does not always guarantee success.

Many pastors work hard but are missing some kind of “X-factor.” They are good people, sincere believers, love God, know the Word, have great content in their sermons, but somehow it’s not clicking.  It’s frustrating.

It’s like a worship leader who loves Jesus and has a great singing voice but somehow cannot lead people in an effective worship experience.

Some days, leaders feel like they can’t seem to do anything right. The ministry finally gets momentum, and then a leader in the church falls. Things are going well, and then a couple of your biggest givers leave.

The church needs money, but the pastor doesn’t want to put too much focus on money. It’s not about the money—but it becomes about the money.

All of this can be overwhelming.

  • 4,000 new churches begin each year and 7,000 churches close.
  • Over 1,700 pastors left the ministry every month last year.
  • Over 3,500 people a day left the church last year. 
  • 50% of pastors feel so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if
    they could, but have no other way of making a living.
  • 45.5 % of pastors say that they’ve experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence from ministry. 

This is not the case for all pastors. In fact, many that I know have managed to handle these issues well.

How Christians and church members can help:  

Pray for your pastor.

Pray for guidance, protection, healthy friends, their marriage, and family. Pray for inspiration, anointing, the leadership team, unity, and clarity.

Protect your pastor.

As best as you can, don’t allow or participate in gossip and criticism. How can you serve and problem solve to prevent overload?

Encourage your pastor.

Thank him for his or her work and ministry. Thank them for their sacrifice. Tell them a specific time in which you or someone you know experienced a life change in their church. Honor them to others.  Let your pastors know you are praying for them. According to the Barna report—the profession of “Pastor” is near the bottom of a survey of the most-respected professions, just above “car salesman.”

To Pastors.

Don’t give up, pastor! Persistence is powerful.

Keep on. Really! Your work, your labor of love, and your sacrifice matters.

I realize the last thing a pastor needs is another sermon. But these verses have helped me. Hold on to God’s Word with your life.

So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised. Hebrews 10:35-36 NLT

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time, we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Gal. 6:9 NLT

Be careful of the comparison trap.

Looking at other ministries can be inspiring. Comparing yourself to other churches can be destructive and discouraging.

Make new pastor friends. Expose yourself to new influences, new leaders, churches, or ministries that are doing some things differently.

Discover to some fresh views and ideas. Sometimes, it just takes one or two new ideas that can change momentum around.

Pastors that are struggling or are no longer in ministry may have unresolved hurts. I encourage you to find healing. Seek counseling; find a local Celebrate Recovery group; equip yourself with resources on healing (some examples are Safe People orBoundaries) and share your secrets with safe people.  Remember you’re only as sick as your secrets.

*The Fuller Institute, George Barna, and Pastoral Care Inc. provide the statistics I have used in this post.

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best-of-week-logo

This week has been a tight week to discover the best (most viewed) post of the week on itsawonderfilledlife.

I believe that My Daughter Is Twenty-One was the most viewed for two reasons … it was one that people knew would be personal (and therefore more ‘real’), and it was one that readers would relate to, as parents who watch the days pass like years, and the years pass like days …

Also this week were :

A Letter to my Kids
(what I want most for my kids to not become)

The Wink Challenge
(heavenly expressions of ‘I love you’)

Dog for Sale … Cheap
(how a run away dog and a teens baptism spoke to my soul)

Beautiful Awakening
(shouldn’t every first morning breath be a beautiful awakening?)

Blessings to you this day,
Carole

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Sleeping-Beauty-BJ-L

Every morning, at six o’clock, the alarm on my iPad awakens me to the gentle music of the above song. It is like awakening from a dream, and into a new dream. It is an awakening into a most joy-filled eutopia. It both makes me want to awaken, and want to stay right where I am … so that the music does not end … so that the feeling it creates within me does not end.

It used to be that I would be awakened by hubby’s talk radio station. Certainly it did the job of awakening me and getting me motivated to get out of bed … and run from the room so that I no longer had to hear it anymore.

Then it was my music radio station, which was also successful in moving me from the warmth of my covers to the cool of the tile in the bathroom, but it always seemed to come on as the news came on, and the top headlines are rarely good news.

Then I began using the alarm on my cell phone. And it did well at startling me from my slumber, but it was simply … functional.

At the same time that I had the above mentioned morning awakenings, I also had the violent sound of my coffee grinder/brewer create something similar in my body to the medical practice of placing the paddles on your chest to get your heart to start beating … and boy, would it beat!

It was not until recently that I decided it was time for a beautiful awakening each morning.

So I scanned the music loaded on my device, for the perfect morning wake up. When my eyes fell upon Ennio Morricone that I knew I was onto something good. The song, Love Affair, is the theme from the movie of the same name. Released in 1994, Love Affair is the second remake of the timeless story of Terry and Mike (“Love Affair”-1939, “An Affair to Remember”-1957). It is a story of …

what else?

redemption …

(is there any other theme that we … consciously or not … seek more?)

And what a beautiful awakening awaits me each day … it is such a beautiful awakening that there each morning, when greeted by this love affair of a song … redeeming all that has been and is to come.

yesterday does not matter

today does not even matter

all that matters is awakening …

filling lungs with that first morning breath, and soul with that first whisper …

good morning.

“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
Ephesians 5:14

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